Here it is guys, the last chapter of my first book, *Progeny*! It's been since September 4th 1999 that I finished this, and then started her sequel *Folie de Deux* (then Juventud y Cambio.) I recently re-worked the ending recently after a good writer-friend read it for me and gave some suggestions. Chapter 17 and 18 were reworked, especially Janus' place in it. I am probably later tonight going to post the new copy of Ch17.

So anyway, don't forget to crit, review, and tell me what you loved and hated, and who!

Thanks all of you who have been reading right along, especially Aridianna/Hart, Strider Hunter, Gwyneth de Lioncourt (now The Dreamwatcher Hinatow it seems,) and Diamond-Chan.

If you want, when I deem it ready and suitable for human eyes, I can post a few chapters of FdD.

Until!

Ollie

18
Pain.

Immense, incalculable pain. Never had I felt like that before. There usually is a threshold that the hurt and the suffering can cross where one feels no pain any longer and it becomes almost pleasant, perhaps bittersweet, just as the way the expressions of love can be gently painful. When the Change occurred, the pain was spiritually painful. When the kill comes into its crest, all the blood drained from the body, the pain is deafeningly and yet lovingly painful.

But that pain, the pain I was feeling even as I tried to sleep, was not subsiding. It was not crossing the gateway where things go numb and life can go on, though it's mellow and indifferent.

No, that pain defined anew the meaning of ultimate suffering. Supreme misery. Incomparable agony.

I was alone.

Again.

I was separated from everything that meant anything to me. Janus was dead because of me. Niam and Tomas hadn't said so much as a simple spiteful goodbye. They hadn't had the decency to watch me run off into the forest, into the night, out of their lives.

It had been three weeks since Tirpsie banished me from the Refuge of the Eternals and sent her children off to drain Janus in front of my very eyes. Three weeks since Niam committed the ultimate offense: He abandoned me. He hadn't even given me the satisfaction of fighting to see if I could have won. If I could have overtaken him, I could have taken him home.

He obviously wanted to kill me since he let me live. A far worse punishment than the escape of death.

I had at least had the mercy enough to *try* to kill Ranant...

*Ranant.*

Oh, I knew then what Hen and I had put him through, what for years I had tried to define, to understand. It was the Hell's Fire he had to walk through.

But perseverance was his, and languor was mine.

*My master, how could such hatred have been spawned in me in so short a childhood?* I wanted to call to him, to take him in my arms and tell him that, yes, I understood, and that no, I didn't understand back then, and that yes, I would do anything he said if only...

*If only what?* I barked at myself.

There was nothing he could have given me that I didn't have.

Except my companions back.

Though after what happened, how could I have wanted them back? It wasn't as if Ranant *could* return them to me anyways.

I did want them back. I did want Niam, at least.

My children had repeated the history I had written, in a different form of deception. As I made way to the boundaries of France, I was still thinking out into the night to my dear old Master.

*I'm so sorry...*

I drove the nutmeg stallion along the road, the dust kicking up from under the hooves, the wind pulling at me, pulling at me to bring me back to France. I had traded the white horse given to me by Galen two weeks ago after I had nearly killed the thing riding it as fast as I had. The stall owner I had approached almost sent me to the tannery instead.

I dug the heel of my boots into the horse's side and he picked up into a gallop, straining to reach the border, to spirit me away from my past.

As I approached a thicket, large ominous trees hanging over my head, the horse reared suddenly and I was thrown from it.

Fumbling for the reigns as I tried to calm it with the will of my mind, it continued to buck. The reigns snapped. The horse kicked me back, a kick that could have killed a normal woman.

It took off down the way we had traveled and I stood there, watching it ride at full speed away from me, crashing through the bushes that moved into its path. I was watching even after it had disappeared from my sight, watching and cursing the animal.

I was alone.

I had no horse. I had no money. I had no Niam. I had no sanity left to give. All I did have were my empty thoughts and accumulated memories of old times, old friends, and old betrayals, some betrayals which hadn't had a month to age and some which were long buried. Buried and tossed into the Bay.

*Emara...*

I shut my eyes to the voice.

*You're forgiven, love. How often must you ask for absolution? I give it to you every time.*

I spoke softly, my lips barely moving, "I know... You always forgive me." My voice was almost lackadaisical, almost reticent.

Why didn't you listen to them?

"About what?" I opened my eyes and began to look around.

How much, exactly, did he know?

*Niam and Tomas. Why didn't you see it happening? Even when you were becoming cold towards me those years ago I could see it as clearly as I saw the shine in your eyes. The blood in your face...*

He touched me from behind, the gentle caress meaning more to me than anything at that moment could have. "The love you hid from me, princess, means more than the love you shared."

I pulled away from him, wanting to see him. It had been since the night Niam discovered my vampirism, the night I unearthed that my attempts at killing him were unsuccessful, that I had lain eyes on Ranant so closely. I had seen him from a distance, seen him in my mind, and in the visions he had sent to me. But, oh, how lovely he looked in the moonlit darkness, the gentle wisps of silver-toned hair floating around his ever-paling face, the dark and darker eyes caressing me with their inquiry. I thought foolish, girlish things and tried to hold them back, tried to keep him from my mind.

"Niam never loved you," he touched my face. Was he as entranced with me as I was with him?

"I know," I admitted softly, looking to the ground sorrowfully. Niam hadn't loved me. He had coveted the Change and the life it brought. He would have taken it any cost...even if that meant death for me. All Niam wanted was my money and my beauty. He had known that I had kept no knowledge from him.

Even saying all that truth aloud could not persuade my love of him. I loved Niam even if he would never love me.

"Not as I love you," Ranant intruded as he ran his hand through my hair, brushing against my cheek.

I backed away, crossing my arms and still staring at his feet. I was staring at his shoes, distracted by the light-touched buckles. It was too much to have him near me so shortly after... Drinal and Tirpsie and their evil. He was a different evil, an evil I could deal with and perhaps have affection for.

But I knew, nevertheless, that he was some twisted and gentlemanly form of evil, a mutated version of the twins' evil everlasting. I could not let myself be taken in once more by that darkness, harbored by corruption.

Janus had warned me about that evil. He had tried to escape it, tried to come with me...

"I'm sorry." I looked away from the shoes, realizing I had let my pause linger too long and that he was scanning me, trying to pick up on what I was contemplating.

I didn't want him to know.

He moved closer. "I'll forgive you till heaven falls from the sky."

Yes, I knew. But I didn't want that forgiveness. I had caused death because of my actions. I had let Janus die because I was too weak to protect him.

It was amazing: I finally could see why Ranant continued to forgive me and reminded me that he always forgave me. I was in that place he had stood so often in and I would forgive Niam if and when he asked for it, perhaps even if he didn't.

I hadn't asked Ranant's forgiveness. Not in the beginning, at least.

I had to forgive Niam. Ranant forgave me; I had to forgive my own child-in-blood. It would be being ungrateful if I did not. Ungrateful that, while I commit crimes continually against my creator and he forgave me ultimately, one simple act of discontent could tear me from my own creations. No, that would be being unappreciative.

Who was I talking about unappreciative? What was so appreciative about Niam hiding his face from me? As if I were the one to blame for his faults and his shortcomings! I didn't want to forgive Niam. Not then and there with Ranant as my witness.

I needed time. I needed to heal and to plan vengeance. The wounds Niam and his brother-in-blood had given me were deeper than the blade I had shoved into my master's gut, and harsher than the fangs that had torn at his throat.

As I forced myself to look at Ranant, I wanted to ask him if he really did forgive me. Time heals all wounds of the flesh, but can the mind ever heal?

*Women forgive but never forget... Men forget but never forgive.* Thayer's warning about my marrying the Count and how it would affect Jean came into my ears. I had kept that warning to myself. I was very glad that Niam didn't know all of my life. The worst, perhaps, but not all. He didn't know the good that there was, in my daughter, his own father, and me. Even in Ranant and Hennin at times. Before the inn fire, that is.

"Come with me," Ranant stated more than asked.

I shook my head, momentarily returned to the thoughts of his evil. Ranant's cruelty paled compared with Tirpsie and Drinal. Paled almost to the point where I would have welcomed returning to him if it meant that I would never again have to view or partake in the atrocities that were the Refuge.

But I couldn't go back to him. The sheer mental anguish would be torment enough. If I were to go back with him in those moments, I feared what I might do to get away from him a second time.

"No, Ranant. I just wanted to apologize. Formally. I wanted to see you once more, under better circumstances than the last few times." I smiled wanly. "But I suppose now is as good as circumstances as I'll get."

"Then you accept that I'll keep following you?"

"If you accept that I'll keep walking away." I shut my eyes to the wind as it danced through my hair, the scent of the long-gone horse coming with it. "I wanted to know you were truly alive and not some myth in my head."

"Very much alive." I felt him leaning to me, and I heard him whispering in my ear, "But very much alone."

I fought against myself, against making some cocky, flippant remark, and finally he spoke. "You have to have someone, my dear, to talk with. Someone who has been through what you have. You need me."

"I need to do this on my own, Master. Let me suffer."

Ranant smiled, amused. "You know I can't do that," he said.

How true.

"Please," I gently raised my hands to his shoulders and stepped away from him, "You shouldn't worry. We have eternity to find each other and to speak of what has happened now..." I forced myself to say, "*And* in the past."

"Yes." He took my hand, kissed it. "One day you will return to me."

I shook my head in disagreement. "I don't think so."

"Ah, my pet, but *I* know so."

I stepped further away and spoke gently. "Goodbye, Ranant."

"Correction, my love..." He bowed slightly. "*Goodnight.*"

I turned away from him for a moment, looking towards the road I was to travel, and when I looked back to him, he had taken to the shadows of the night and was gone.

It was stunning that I could, with each passing moment, become more and more so very much alone. I couldn't even think of Ranant after that or he would be at once back to my side, trying to convince me to let him teach me, let him help me, let him ease the pain.

Ease the pain.

How nice it would have been if it could be eased out of my mind at least.
*Oh Niam...* I thought as I started towards the border on foot, not caring whether Ranant followed, whether the horse was found, if the fact that I had not fed for nearly two days was going to affect me. *I hope you're happy, you arrogant brat.*

A thought struck me, deep within my mind. I don't know where it had come from, that terrible, wonderful thought. Perhaps it was seeing Ranant so soon after the Refuge. Maybe a combination of things: Janus' death, Ranant's appearance, the steady crunching noise of stones beneath my boots. Wherever it had sprung forth from, the idea was there. And it stuck with me, strong and unfaltering, as I left France, glad and dismal all at once.

I had to pay my old friend William Attwood a visit. I hoped that he would be interested in a certain mansion deep in the Marseille forest that has overgrown its boundaries and that was crawling with vermin.

-FIN